The US is ramping up the pressure on Turkey, a NATO ally, over its decision to purchase S-400 surface-to-air missile systems from Russia.
Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday, General Curtis Scaparrotti, head of US European Command and NATO’s supreme allied commander, said the US should not sell Lockheed Martin F-35 jets to Turkey if Ankara does not drop plans to buy the Russian systems.
“I do believe that we shouldn’t provide F-35s if there is an S-400 in Turkey,” he said.
Washington says that the S-400s are not interoperable with NATO systems and would compromise the security of the F-35.
Asked about the issue Thursday, a State Department spokesperson reportedly pointed to recent remarks by Vice President Mike Pence at the Munich Security Conference in February that the US would not “stand idly by while NATO allies purchase weapons from our adversaries.”
Turkey appears unfazed by US warnings.
In comments made Wednesday, the country’s Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said the procurement of S-400s was key to the country’s security. “We cannot keep our survival relying on temporary measures,” he was quoted as saying by the state-run Anadolu agency.
He added that delivery of the US jets is expected in November, as planned, according to the report. “Despite some statements, F-35 process goes smoothly; our pilots, maintenance team continue training in the US,” he said, according to the report, adding that Turkey was continuing to do its part in designing and building parts of the aircraft.
Meanwhile, according to NATO’s 2018 report released Thursday, Greece was among six European allies to meet the 2 percent/GDP goal sought by the US. The others were Estonia, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Britain.